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Cat crusader no longer takes in tabbies

After Phyllis Aw, 54, was told she had to move out of her Punggol house six months ago, she took stock of things and decided to end her cat crusade. She has stopped taking in cats and will focus on looking after the remaining 120 under her care. (ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN)

Publication Date : 25-06-2012


The animal lover who once housed as many as 700 cats under her roof wants to call it quits, amid the spiralling cost of caring for them.

Phyllis Aw said she has to be practical about her own needs and sustaining her life.

The 54-year-old said: "I no longer have the energy and means to continue doing this."

She is stopping her cat crusade after housing, feeding and finding the cats new homes for the past 10 years.

She no longer takes in cats and has stopped an adoption drive for the remaining 120 under her care.

"I don't want to waste my time and resources trying to find people who are not serious about looking after them. I might as well try to find ways to earn more money to take care of the remaining cats until the end of their lives," she said.

Six months ago, she set a three-year deadline for herself.

"I will go back to my HDB flat in Tampines so my husband and I can start to live our lives."

She did a stock take when she was hunting for a new haven for herself, husband and tabbies last December, after they were told they had to move out of their bungalow in Punggol.

Recounting the househunting experience, she said she was turned away by 50 houseowners before she was finally accepted by her current landlord.

"They said I was crazy to have so many cats around and said they were smelly and noisy."

Unlike the old 14,000 sq ft Punggol home, the Aws' new abode is a much smaller four-bedroom terraced house in Sembawang, which spans 6,000 sq ft.

Relocating was costly. Out of the S$40,000 (US$31,000) she made from selling Chinese New Year cookies, she spent S$35,000 (US$27,000) on building cages and fences for her cats and making the house animal-friendly so that they could roam around.

But the mounting cost of looking after the sterilised tabbies - mostly mixed breed - is taking a toll on Aw.

She spends about S$10,000 (US$7,800) a month maintaining the home that she lives in with her construction manager-husband, two helpers and four dogs.

The sum goes towards settling the rent, food, medical bills and general upkeep of the animals.

Although her friends pitch in with S$5,000 a month, Aw, who does not have a stable job, is finding it hard to make ends meet.

In the last six months, she has taken up classes in holistic massage and will be a certified masseuse next month.

She plans to open a massage parlour and continue looking after her brood.

Meanwhile, she takes on a variety of jobs, including cooking for catering companies.

When The Straits Times dropped in at the new place last week, which Aw christened Blessing, she was making 1,000 rice dumplings to sell to friends and catering companies for the weekend's Duan Wu or Dragon Boat Festival.

Pulling back her ash-coloured bob after slogging in the kitchen, she said: "It's the least I can do, to give the cats a good life, even if it means having to work a little harder."

This is despite her declining health - she had a hysterectomy six years ago and has been experiencing back pains.

For now, her loyalty to her tabbies cannot be scratched away.

She said: "I don't want to walk out of their lives and leave the animals behind. They are my children after all."


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